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Challenge of Ideas, The (Part I)

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Challenge of Ideas, The (Part I)

Published 1961
Topics Cold War

John Wayne, Edward R. Murrow and others discuss the ideological battle between U.S. and Soviet Union.

Run time 25:35
Producer U.S. Army Pictorial Center
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W



Ken Smith sez: A cavalcade of stars -- Edward R. Murrow, John Wayne, Frank McGee, Helen Hayes and, of course, Lowell Thomas -- spend the bulk of this film telling us that Americans are "under God," and that the U.S. government follows an international policy of "watchful, non-intrusive friendship" and "hands-off internal affairs" (tell that to Cuba or South Vietnam in 1961). When these celebrities finish trumpeting our manifest destiny, they start warning us about the communists, who want "world conquest" and are a "perversion of us and everything we stand for."
The section with John Wayne is the best -- he spouts lines such as "beauty is of national concern to us" while we see stock footage of Miss America, lady wrestlers, clips from Personal Hygiene (!), and a marine corps trio playing Rock Around the Clock. Many good "American" vs. "communist" montages.

Zero = first pix

00:00 United Nations General Assembly
00:14 Crates being unloaded from cargo ship
00:15 Foreign folk dance troupe
00:18 Lighting of Olympic flame at Olympic Games
00:21 U.S. Capitol building, Washington, D.C.
00:25 John F. Kennedy
00:30 Flags in front of United Nations building
00:44 Edward R. Murrow smoking at desk
00:52 Soldiers carrying duffel bags, embarking on boat
01:14 American servicemen (soldiers), families
01:15 American tourists abroad (various locations)
01:21 Fighter planes on tarmac
01:22 Submarine seen from the air
01:25 Frontal view of battleship
01:30 Soldiers look through binoculars
01:31 Sign: "Russian Zone" (Berlin, Germany)
01:38 Sign: "Army Reserve" outside building
02:02 Hand fills out income tax return
02:30 Diplomats at international conference
02:39 Small town in United States
02:46 Old man raises hand at meeting
02:50 Teacher draws large triangle on blackboard
02:51 Teenage girl raises hand in class
03:23 CU Joseph Stalin (?)
03:25 The Kremlin seen from the Moscow River
03:29 U.S. Capitol building
03:34 Men playing horseshoes
03:36 Couple sits on bench watching bathers at beach
03:38 Young couple holding hands
03:43 Minister giving sermon
03:47 Men eating on street
03:48 Rodeo
03:53 Blue-collar workers walking in a group
03:58 LS smoking factory (smokestacks)
03:59 Welders
04:01 Woman textile mill worker
04:03 Black worker (man) examining glass jars on assembly line
04:07 Men work on airplane engine
04:10 John Wayne gives anti-Communist talk and smokes cigarettes a lot, while sitting in director's chair
04:38 Fifties couple dancing cha-cha in nightclub
04:42 Automobile assembly line
04:45 Traffic on highway
04:49 Football scrimmage
04:50 Boxing
04:53 Bucking bronco at rodeo
04:56 Women wrestlers
05:00 Small town parade
05:05 Woman buys greeting card
05:07 Beauty pageant: crowning the beauty queen
05:12 Woman applies lipstick
05:15 Man on beach eating hotdog under umbrella; ogles woman with nice legs
05:27 Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C.
05:34 Quaint grave marker from the Old West
05:38 Country and western band with guitar and accordion
05:46 Square dancing
05:54 Jazz clarinetist in U.S. Army uniform
06:00 Guitarist in talent show
06:10 Three U.S. Marines with guitars and bass singing "Rock Around the Clock"
06:18 Large chorus singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
06:28 Mount Rushmore (South Dakota)
06:30 VS American scenics
06:57 Striking workers picketing
07:02 Crowd at stadium rises to its feet
07:05 Political convention
07:15 Aerial shot of Washington Monument at night
07:20 Iwo Jima memorial, Washington, D.C.; statue of Nathan Hale; statue of combat soldier; Civil War statue
07:37 Statue of Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
07:54 Visitors to the National Archives view Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution at the Archives building in Washington, D.C.
08:14 People sing hymns in church; montage of churches
08:43 Children in library
08:49 People waiting to vote
08:52 Hog show and auction; stock auctioneers
09:09 Soviet leaders view parade in Red Square, Moscow, U.S.S.R.; Nikita Khrushchev waves his hat
09:25 Drawings of Russian life; hammer and sickle graphics
09:29 Tanks and rockets parade by in Red Square
10:11 Hanson Baldwin gives anti-Communist speech; points to map of world with Communist countries in black
11:29 Political rally in Third World country
11:30 Gamal Abdel Nasser (?) (Egypt) gives speech
11:37 Taj Mahal
11:20 Spanish steps in Rome; tourist takes pictures
13:37 Turning globe
14:29 Newspaper headline: "Communist Coup in Prague" (Czechoslovakia)
14:41 Communist meeting hall with picture of Josef Stalin
14:51 Eastern European voting
15:02 Communist military parades
15:20 Tanks in China; battle scenes; marching Chinese soldiers
15:45 Guerrilla war in streets (street warfare)
15:58 Book burnings
16:05 Flag burnings
16:10 Riot police
16:38 Frank McGee gives anti-Communist speech
17:20 Soviet factories, products and shipping
18:00 Nikita Khrushchev waving from automobile
18:05 Fidel Castro shaking hands
19:06 Round table with diplomats (U.N. Security Council or European conference?)
19:40 Foreign automobile workers
19:45 NATO conference
20:00 Americans training foreign workers
21:00 NATO meeting, 1959
21:25 Nurse delivers baby, holds baby up, baby cries
21:20 Suffragette
21:26 Interior of cathedral
21:34 Blue-collar workers receiving paychecks
21:38 American family at dinner
22:40 Anti-American demonstrations and riots; Anti-American propaganda
23:40 People entering London Underground (subway)
23:56 Lowell Thomas gives anti-Communist speech
24:40 Montage of sensational newspaper headlines exposing corruption
25:27 American servicemen (soldiers, military) with flags
25:35 Liberty Bell swinging (ringing)
25:40 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
25:59 Helen Hayes gives anti-Communist speech
27:34 Silhouette of Statue of Liberty
27:42 House in snow (General George Washington's headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey?); bridge at Concord, Massachusetts
27:58 Seascape; waves breaking on rocks
28:11 Pioneers building fort
28:11 Railroad workers hammer Golden Spike; trains meet; people cheer
28:19 Montage of axes, shovels, saws, forges, steel beams
28:32 VS Statue of Liberty; people look up in deference; young Black girl looks up at statue; VS people looking up
29:30 John F. Kennedy's "Ask Not" quotation superimposed over Statue of Liberty



Reviewer: Beldapriest - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 27, 2015
Subject: I made this into a music video...
with music from the band MX. You can find it here:
Reviewer: nextNYC - favorite - December 27, 2010
Subject: Cold War Propaganda
I find it fascinating that those people who claim that US values triumphed in the defeat of the Cold War don't recognize this as propaganda that is literally telling the viewer what to think and is extremely disingenuous when it comes to the reasons why the Soviet Union were bad.
Some mention how cynical the 60s were. Well if there a draft, and you know your govt could send you to war over a conflict really between the elites of two superpowers, for reasons that were ridiculous such as the domino theory, you might be cynical too.
You also say we "won" the Cold War. It's funny, I don't see it that way at all. The Berlin Wall fell when I was young, and then for rest of my life I have lived in a country that has been throwing out rights, imprisoning more people than -any- other nation, and engaged in illegal expansion of it's pseudo empire under the guise of both out right illegal warfare and the "benevolent" one of globalization (better known as the race to the bottom).
Murrow says the aggressive nature of the Soviet state made it an enemy to freedom. Well here we are, 3 decades from the dissolution of the SU and he have the highest incarceration rates in the world (668 per 100,000). If this doesn't get you thinking about why Americans are cynical now, I don't know what will.
There is an interesting documentary about jokes that were told in the SU prior to it's collapse, after things weren't going so well in it's economy. There were many, many jokes, in fact a comedy show helped bring down one Soviet puppet state. Now compare that to the rise of John Stewart and the incredible level of cynicism on the streets today.
Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 2, 2010
Subject: We Won The Challenge
Produced when the cold war was at its height, this film was intended to educate service members about the basics of the conflict---much like the "Why We Fight" series produced by the War department during World War II.

Of course, 30 years after this film was released,
the cold war ended with almost complete victory
by the democracies. It took patience, sustained effort, sacrifice and steady national nerve to do it. Therein lies a lesson for today: the threats posed by those claiming to act on behalf of Islam will best be met by the steady, vigilant opposition of free men and women. The cold war was not won by witch hunters or by those who were prepared to set aside our ideals
in order to save them. Today's "Challenge of Ideas" will be won the same way the cold war was won---by free people who are proud of what they stand for and who understand that the strongest rebuke to totalitarian claims is to live their ideals.
Reviewer: Brian Pinette - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 22, 2009
Subject: A Beautiful American Sentiment and WISH for the future
Great Americans patriots of the early sixties, before internet and people grew to be cynical.
Too bad the first two reviewers do not see that.
How sad their lives must be without hope.
Reviewer: ffelix - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 9, 2007
Subject: The Cold War was a scary time.
We felt we had the best system of government, but the Soviets were performing at a level that indicated that we might be wrong. Given the American veneration of productivity above all other considerations [including the much vaunted "family values"], Sputnik must have been utterly, painfully, inconceivably devastating. Even John Wayne was perturbed--though not enough to give up smoking for 30 minutes of filming.

But rather than soul-searching we dug in, using scare-tactics & agitprop like this to activate soldiers & the citizenry to fight against Communism in our community [male soldiers in WWII were 26 years old on average, therefore fully myelinated & far harder to manipulate than today's [literally] brainless 18 year olds]. It turned out to be a good thing, ultimately, but the victory of propaganda over philosophy was as remarkable--if unremarked--as the eventual one of of USA over USSR. Why doesn't anyone in government ever trust the citizenry to chose the course of action that will yield the best return for themselves--the most fundamental of human values? And if the government can't offer that, what do they think their job is? Why SHOULD the citizenry support them? At least Stalin was honest about his impossible psychotic delusions: Once I get rid of the pesky citizens, everything will be fine.

And the Cold War apparently scared the values & sense as well as the freakin' willies out of many Americans at the time. Statements like: " 'Propaganda' of this sort not only moves the viewer to a position, it also empowers the viewer to hold the government to the same standard" are amazing in their embracing of the self-same values this generation sacrificed so much to defeat. I see nothing in this piece that encourages us to hold the government to any standard except victory over the "godless"--whatever that means. For a lark, try replacing the word "Americans" for "Communists" as you listen to the piece--it's hard to not see it as a statement of current American foreign policy [our way or the highway].

Fascism is fascism, no matter which side is selling it. It's nice to have this historical perspective to understand that. Probably why governments historically incline toward censorship & book-burning.
Reviewer: mcloughlin - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 13, 2006
Subject: Communism: The most destructive ideology in the history of mankind.
No other ideology is the foundation and driving force of more murders and genocides then communism in the history of the world. Islam may come a far second, but even Jihad could only murder tens of millions in a thousand years. Communism under Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pot, the Derge, etc. is easily guilty of over 100 million deaths by various methods of genocide. Roman Catholism to compare is only guilty of aprox 300,000 deaths over 300 years.

The communist ideology is fought by using slightly different terms today (ie socialism, etc), but the goal is the same as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pot, etc. a revolution to take over the world for their cause.

As Stalin once said "no person, then no problem"

When this movie was made all of the information was not available as it is today to study the magnitude of the genocides attributed to those furthering the communist ideology, today one may find books on it if one does his research. Back then in the early 60's with some hokey old mannerisms they give you some basics to start with.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 23, 2003
Subject: Or, Why We're Right and They're Wrong
Edward R. Murrow hosts this early-60s film, which seems to be designed to explain the Cold War to service personnel, though there is also some implication that it may have been shown to the general public as well. A motley assortment of stars, such as John Wayne, Lowell Thomas, and Helen Hayes also appear at various points to explain the ideological differences between the capitalist and communist systems, i.e. Why WeÂre Right and TheyÂre Wrong. ItÂs not quite as intelligent as the presence of Murrow would suggest, but itÂs not quite as jingoistic as the presence of Wayne would suggest. As such, itÂs kind of annoying. It does have a great deal of historical interest, though, as a portrait of what the American government wanted its citizens to believe about the Cold War.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: **. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favorite - March 6, 2003
Subject: The Challenge Os Staying Awake
In this monotonous hoo-ha of of how great America is compared to Those Communist Bastards, noted experts like Edward R. Murrow, John Wayne and, yes, Helen Hayes trot out to spit out ideologies of how great America is compared to the communists. Curiously, R. Murrow and Wayne both have lit cigarettes in their hands. Is that some kind of metaphor? Dissapointingly plodding and boring, it's not really worth your time, despite it's starpower.
Reviewer: - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 20, 2002
Subject: Fascinating Film Did Not Go Far Enough
I saw this film in school in 1964. It is fun to see it 37+ years later, but also to see what the film omitted. "Ken Smith" (in the shot list) sarcastically summarizes the film as though it had painted an untrue picture. This film, however, fell far short because it failed to fully count the results of world communism. It accurately talks about human rights, ideological warfare and economic issues, shows a few general pics of repression, but omits showing how communism butchered 20+ million civilians in Red China, another 40+ million in the USSR. These facts were known in the 1950's; they are certainly known now (See The Black Book of Communism by StephaneCourtois, et al.; Death by Government, by R.J. Rummel). "Ken Smith" suggests that the film painted an unduly favorable view of American foreign policy -- but what if Americans had fully understood and embraced that favorable view? "Propaganda" of this sort not only moves the viewer to a position, it also empowers the viewer to hold the government to the same standard. By becoming cynical, we discarded the righteous view of foreign policy but replaced it with nothing (evidenced by the confusion now over what to do about world terrorism). This film provides a historical marker against which modern viewers can measure the movement of world politics -- and the movement of our national spirit.
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